6. March 2019 Christine Gstöttner

Review of the MSC standard – claim and reality

On 17 January, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) of the British Parliament in its final report called on the Marine Stewardship Council to consider the specific criticisms of the WWF, Prof. Callum Roberts and other marine conservationists in the upcoming five-year review of its certification standards and to adapt its standard accordingly. Only in this way can the MSC prevent the loss of consumer confidence in the sustainability seal.

The EAC had dealt with the issue of “Sustainable Seas” and in this context also assessed the significance of the MSC Sustainability Label for the promotion of sustainable fisheries management.

The EAC further recommended that the MSC should improve its standard to consider specific criticisms raised during the research. This process should be reviewed transparently and independently to ensure consumer confidence in the future. We agree with the view that an independent review is needed to improve the standard.

The Marine Stewardship Council proposed that the critics should actively participate in the standard review which takes place every 5 years. The MSC statement also suggests that the MSC already considers its current review process (the standard fisheries review) to be transparent and independent. Among other things, the MSC states that the process will be reviewed by independent bodies, including ISEAL, the global association for credible sustainability standards.

We would like to publicly state that we do not believe that the self-defined process proposed by the MSC is in line with the recommendations of the EAC. As an example, one of ISEAL’s board members, Nicolas Guichoux, is also the Chief Program Officer of the MSC. For us, this does not equate to being an independent review.

The Make Stewardship Count Coalition and SHARKPROJECT as a member of this international coalition, as well as the “On the Hook” Alliance, together with other organizations, are therefore calling for an independent review of the MSC standard:

– which is carried out externally.

– The MSC is accompanied by independent experts and stakeholders from the scientific community, species conservation organizations, the retail trade and the fishing industry. This format of review should also include open and transparent technical workshops.

– The review should not be limited to the topics selected by the MSC but should also include an assessment of the overall environmental impact of certified fisheries (MSC Principle 2) and the certification process itself. This is demanded by Make Stewardship Count, On the Hook and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).

– It should be carried out in a completely transparent manner.

– Both the MSC standard and its application covers and recommendations on both are made within a reasonable period. The independent review must be faster than the standard review process proposed by the MSC, so that the results of this review can be included in the standard review.

We very much hope that the MSC will make a clear statement as soon as possible on how it intends to implement the EAC recommendations.

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